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25 Nov 2010

Leadership versus Management and Their Difference

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Leadership vs. Management: The Difference

There are endless reads on leadership versus management and their differences. Most references are too technical. They focus on duties, tasks and attributes.

For example, in Professor Robert Sutton’s post, “True Leaders Are Also Managers,” Sutton focuses on these three things. He is silent on three others though. It is these three that help us see this debate in terms of relationships.

Difference in Affect

First, leadership is an affect. That means it is subjective. An emotion inside the follower produces an affinity for the leader. We see this in our daily experiences.

For example, consider that we manage things such as resources, investments and processes but we lead people. Do we lead money?

The difference transforms management into leadership in much the same way it transforms a house into a home. As Figure 1 shows, leadership completes management. It adds relationships to management.

Leadership versus management is about people versus things.

Figure 1: Leadership versus Management – Home versus House

Difference in Change

The second difference is change. The word lead implies motion. Motion, moving from one point to another, implies change. Where we are now is a change from where we were.

The word manage implies the status quo. For instance, when we ask, “How are you?” and people reply, “I am managing,” this conveys “keep up.” “I am managing to keep my head above water.”

Figure 2 shows the dynamic nature of change under leadership. People lead revolutions. We do not say they are managing them. What is the secret to change though? It is relationships.

When it comes to change, the leadership versus management difference is relationships.

Figure 2: Leadership versus management is about the change each can bring.

Difference in Roles

A third way we can see the difference is that people can be leaders while not being managers. This can be a source of tension between managers and employees whom the group sees as leaders.

It is tension between the authority managers receive from organizations and the power leaders receive from relationships. People see what they want in their leaders. Org charts affect this little. People form the relationships they want with whom they want.

Leadership versus Management is People versus Things

In the end, we find leadership is about people. Management is about things. Without people there is no leadership. There are no leaders . . . no followers . . . no relationships.

There are always things to manage though. Just look around.


Series NavigationLeadership vs. Management: The Difference (Part II) >>

7 Responses

  1. John G. Bayusik

    Mike; I think that there is defininitely a difference between leadership and management. I think leadership can be considered a higher form of management. A matter of respect vs. deference. People will follow a manager’s orders because they HAVE to. They will follow a leader’s orders because they WANT to.

    1. “People will follow a manager’s orders because they HAVE to.” Tends to always be the case in the kind of jobs that noone would willfully keep except for lack of better options. That would be 99.9% of them during a bad economy.

      1. Mike Lehr

        Yes, Glade, people must follow a manager’s orders but nothing can force them to do so enthusiastically. It’s the difference between compliant and inspired behavior.

        An employee became confused one day when I asked him to complete a checklist when he visited a client’s site. He looked at me and said, “Well, it sounds like I have to complete it. Why are you asking?”

        I reminded him that he had a choice. He could just routinely check the boxes, not applying much thought. He could also be conscientious about making sure each task was done right before checking them off. Checking the box did not say whether the job was done satisfactorily or well.

        There is a difference between doing a job just well enough and doing a job well. How managers tell their teams what to do is often the difference.

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  3. Thanks for the reposting of this piece! I wasn’t following you back then; I’ll be considering all six posts in the series. It’s really interesting that we so often use the right choice between ‘lead’ and ‘manage’ while so often bosses want to lead when they should be managing – and vice-versa.

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